According to the office of the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, online gaming platforms are prime territory for sexual predators to target underage kids. Just this month, a 19-year-old man pled guilty to charges of sexual abuse after he met a 12-year-old boy on Xbox LIVE, got friendly online over the next three months, then invited the boy over to his house. It's that kind of crime that Operation: Game Over is out to prevent.
“We must ensure online video game systems do not become a digital playground for dangerous predators. That means doing everything possible to block sex offenders from using gaming networks as a vehicle to prey on underage victims,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.
And with that decree, the AG announced that his office, with the help of some high-profile companies, had successfully kicked 3,580 registered sex offenders off of various online gamine networks (or in some cases cut their communication abilities).
Most of the gaming network top dogs participated in the operation:
As a result of Operation:Game Over, 3,580 accounts of New York state sex offenders have been purged – or their communication privileges suspended – from the gaming platforms owned by Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Warner Bros. and Disney Interactive Media Group.
Apparently, Sony couldn't give the AG's office accurate numbers on how many offenders they kicked off at the time of the announcement, but they are definitely part of the operation.
It wasn't hard for the various companies to find the sex offenders. New York State law requires that all convicted sex offenders register much of their online data - including their email address, screen names, and any other "internet identifiers." So basically, the state of New York handed Microsoft, Blizzard, Sony, etc. a list and said go to town.
Microsoft fully supports Operation: Game Over, according to a statement from their counsel:
At Microsoft, we continually evaluate ways to manage safety for our 40 million Xbox LIVE members and particularly for children on our service. Our partnership with the Office of the New York Attorney General helps further this cause. By leveraging the online identity information all registered sex offenders are required to provide, we are able to help reduce potentially harmful situations. We’re supportive of Attorney General Schneiderman’s efforts to make the Internet, including online gaming environments like Xbox LIVE, safer for everyone.
As did America's Most Wanted's John Walsh (who also co-founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children):
We know that sex offenders target and lure children and how they look at the online community as their private, perverted hunting ground. I commend New York State Attorney General Schneiderman’s efforts to make gaming platforms safer for kids. This initiative is a strong model for other states, and it’s also a great partnership with private sector companies who are demonstrating their commitment to children’s safety.
According to statistics, there are 33,000 registered sex offenders in New York and about 745,000 nationwide. As a parent, do you worry about your child's communication over networks like Xbox LIVE and PSN? Should other states follow suit with their own similar operations? Let us know in the comments.